Building The Sacramento Kings All-Time Roster, Part VIII


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Ron Artest (left) tells his side of the Texas-Hold-‘Em-Strip-Poker-Mother-Teresa story to an amused, terrified, jealous and aroused Aykis16 (right).

 

This is the eighth and final installment of how section214 became charged with and set to the responsibility of putting together an all-time roster for the Sacramento Kings. The first installment can be found here, the second installment can be found here, the third installment can be found here, the fourth installment can be found here, the fifth installment can be found here, the sixth installment can be found here, and the seventh installment can be found here.)

It was getting late, far past dusk. The low hum of the parking lot lights serenaded us, as the light itself wafted gently down upon the now $14 parking spaces – my 401k should appreciate this well. I mentioned to Geoff Petrie that I really should get home. I was fairly certain that I was already in trouble with Mrs. section214, I just wanted to get home while my house keys still worked. Petrie reassured me in a very soothing tone that everything would be alright. "If you see this through to the end, section, I guarantee you that your wife will be more than understanding when you return home. Besides, Kenny Natt is unavailable, so you really need to finish this." I decided to stay, especially after Jerry Reynolds dropped the keys to my Delta 88 in his pants and dared me to fish them out.

Petrie, Reynolds and I determined that before we added any more players to the final roster, we needed to set a rotation with the current players. Our thought process was that rather than just name the greatest remaining Kings to the roster, we needed to make sure that their talents would mesh with the core of the team. Some of the initial starting lineup selections would prove to be quite easy.

 

The chasm between Chris Webber and the next best Kings power forward was rather startling, but we attributed that to Webber’s extremely rare big man skill set. Many people had forgotten just what a force Webber was before his knee injury. C-Webb was nationally regarded as a top 5-10 player, and he was placed on the same level with the elite players that he went up against, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. His career averages would have stacked up like this when compared to the per game average performance of NBA power forwards in 2009-10: 3rd in points at 23.5, 4th in boards at 10.6, 4th in blocks at 1.5, 2nd in steals at 1.5, and 1st in assists at 4.8. For emphasis, these were C-Webb’s career numbers, his averages while he was in Sacramento, pre and post injury. There have been those that have picked at Webber’s contributions over the years, some going as far as to question whether his presence was even a positive. Simply, Chris Webber was on his way to becoming the greatest Sacramento King prior to blowing out his knee, and the argument could be made that he was greatest of Sacramento Kings even with the injury. For our all-time team, Webber was a lock and a cornerstone. Upon receiving the news, C-Webb immediately called his dad and Tyra Banks, while Marty MacNeal celebrated out in the parking lot via a series of pelvic thrusts while yelling, "Take that, Ailene! Take that! And this! And that! That's how we roll!"

 

Mitch Richmond was the second no-brainer selection. Let’s start with 23.3 points per game, on 57% true shooting. Let’s continue with the fact that Michael Jordan called Richmond the toughest 2-guard that he ever crossed paths with. Richmond was perhaps the greatest baseline to baseline player that the Kings have ever had. He could shoot from outside and post up his man, and he could shut down the likes of Clyde Drexler. And unlike Webber, Richmond was (for years) the only hope that Kings’ fans had. He toiled largely alone and in obscurity. Richmond was to be the other cornerstone for this squad. The Rock almost crumbled when we told him the news. Finally, FINALLY, Mitch Richmond was to have some top flight talent around him.

 

Our next selection was not necessarily the next best player, but he was the easiest selection for his position. Peja Stojakovic averaged over 20 points a game as a starter even if you don’t include his magnificent 2003-04 season. With Chris Webber injured most of the campaign, Peja averaged over 24 points a game on 62%(!) true shooting, which he constructed by shooting 43% from 3 point range (240 makes) and 93% from the line (394 makes). Stojakovic also pulled down a career high 6.3 boards per game that year. Overall, Peja Stojakovic easily outdistanced every other Sacramento Kings small forward. We congratulated Peja, and he reciprocated by smiling broadly and saying "This is indeed an honor of the highest level. I will do my best to validate your faith in me. Thank you. Thank you very f*cking much."

 

Vlade Divac beat out Brad Miller for starting center. As noted earlier, Miller actually had better overall stats during their respective stints as Kings. But Vlade’s tangibles tip the scale in his favor. With Webber, Richmond and Stojakovic in the starting lineup, it was going to be important to have a center that could be effective without taking a lot of shots, as well as a guy that could step in and lend a calming influence to this electric and eclectic group. Vlade humbly accepted the position, adding that he "was just happy to be named to the team." Vlade then put one arm around Webber and the other around Richmond. This was going to work out just fine.

 

We chose Mike Bibby to play point guard. We felt that Bibby was a guy that could run the offense, but that he could be equally effective without the ball. With Stojakovic, Richmond and Bibby, we were able to put the three most prolific 3-point shooters on the floor with Webber and Divac. Additionally, Peja could back-cut with the best of them, and Richmond could also score down low. This was a starting five that made double teams a virtual impossibility. Bibby took the news in stride, calmly clipping his fingernails. But Team Nickel broke down and wept.

 

Brad Miller was to be our first big off the bench. At his peak, Miller had the ability to be paired with Webber or Divac. These three guys would get most of the front line minutes. Miller happily accepted his role on the squad, and then rolled one to celebrate.

 

Bobby Jackson was to be our first guard off the bench. In some cases he could be paired with Bibby, but most of his minutes would be spent with Mitch Richmond or Doug Christie (we’ll get to Doug in a minute). The former 6th man of the year would be counted on to bring heart and soul off the bench. Divac picked up B-Jax and held him in a big bear hug, Jackson squirming but beaming.

 

Christie would be the defensive infusion off the bench. While Richmond was a gifted man defender, Christie was a team defense and passing lane specialist, and he single-handedly disrupted opposing team’s offenses on numerous occasions. Doug graciously accepted his assignment, but Jackie challenged Mitch to a game of one on one. We were prepared for this, and we had Justin Williams escort Jackie from the practice facility.

 

Our backup small forward would be Lionel Simmons. Eddie Johnson’s game would have probably fit the Peja mold better, but we liked the thought of Simmons operating in the low post while the big guys like Webber, Divac and Miller drew the trees away from the basket with their mid-range shooting. On this squad, Simmons would be the most underrated player, but his ability to score and rebound would be a welcome addition off the bench. The L-Train set the PS3 controller down just long enough to shake our hands and accept his honor.

 

Wayman Tisdale would round out the top 10 spots on the roster. Tizzy could also provide a low post punch, and his backside could influence high pick and rolls (Tisdale’s rump was large enough to influence tides, let alone high pick and rolls). Wayman thumb-popped his approval on his base, his ever present smile illuminating the room.

 

We now needed to round out the dressing roster, which meant adding two players from the remaining list of La Salle Thompson, Brian Grant, Ron Artest, Corliss Williamson, Kevin Martin, Reggie Theus, Jason Williams and Tyreke Evans.

 

Our first add was Theus. Martin was purer shooter, and Williams the much better point guard, but Theus was a guy that could fill in for any of the guards that were slotted ahead of him. Reggie was capable of doing it all…and still have enough in reserve to tell you all about it later. Aside from having to add a make-up mirror in his locker, Reggie Theus was an easy addition.

 

The 12th slot went to Ron Artest. Artest could fill in up front in a pinch, and the muscle that he would provide at small forward would be a nice yang to Peja’s yin. In certain cases, we even envisioned putting Artest in the backcourt. Ron and Carmichael Dave celebrated Ron’s naming by dancing a do-si-do on the practice facility "A" court, Ron’s sun dress (don’t ask) flowing freely as he circled the floor.

 

We decided to add three more players, bringing the roster to 15. We started with LaSalle Thompson. Tank would be a more than ample fill-in should any of the primary front line guys get hurt. "I’m in," said Thompson, "but I ain’t flopping."

 

Our next ad was Corliss Williamson. The Big Nasty could provide low post scoring, but more importantly he would bring professionalism and a grade "A" work ethic. Williamson would push the players ahead of him, and would never whine or complain about his slot on the team, which is amazing for a guy of his talent. Corliss thanked us, then we thanked Corliss, then he thanked us, then we thanked him…

 

We dismissed Brian Grant at this point, as we knew that our last player would be a guard. Grant pulled out a "Portland or bust" sign and headed to I-5.

 

Looking at the ball handlers that we already had, we sadly said goodbye to Jason Williams. "You f*ckers make the f*cking decisions," said Williams, "but I’ll f*ckin’ tell you what – this f*ckin’ team just got a whole lot fuckin’ uglier." He shared a laugh with Webber, Divac, Stojakovic and Christie, and then Jason Williams f*cking left the building.

 

And this is where it got double tough. Kevin Martin had established himself as one of the top 15 players of the Sacramento Kings era, but this era proved to be a lot more guard heavy than front line heavy. As a result, Martin was firmly on the bubble. Given that Jackson and Theus were our best perimeter bench shooters, the argument could be made to give the 15th slot to Kevin. But in the final analysis, we opted for the versatility and upside of Tyreke Evans. We weren’t sure what Mr. 20-5-5 might provide in the future, but our imaginations ran wild and we had no choice but to award the 15th and final spot to Tyreke. He and Martin exchanged a warm hug, Martin thanked Petrie, Reynolds and me individually for the opportunity. Artest gave Martin a big pat on the back…separating Kevin’s shoulder. Meanwhile, Team Evans began reconfiguring the blueprint.

 

So there it was. After a lot of long and arduous work, after traveling back through time, after spending more time with Jerry Reynolds than my wife, our all-time Sacramento Kings roster looked like this:

 

C – Vlade Divac, Brad Miller, La Salle Thompson

 

PF – Chris Webber, Wayman Tisdale

 

SF – Peja Stojakovic, Lionel Simmons, Ron Artest, Corliss Williamson

 

SG – Mitch Richmond, Doug Christie, Reggie Theus

 

PG – Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, Tyreke Evans

 

We looked at the roster, and briefly considered retrieving Grant from I-5 and giving him Corliss’ spot, as it would really balance out the roster better. But we really liked Williamson’s personality for his roster spot, and we reminded ourselves that we could always unleash Artest up front if we needed to. The roster was set.

 

Petrie and Reynolds wanted me to stick around to select the coaching staff, but it was now very late, and I really had to get going. "Just make sure that the head coach is at least 6’ tall, and that his last name rhymes with ‘cattlemen,’" I advised. "And for the love of God, don’t let Theus talk you into anything." Reynolds handed me the keys, and I grabbed them while wearing an extra pair of latex gloves that Artest happened to have. The players all gave me a nod and a wave, except for Mitch Richmond and Tyreke Evans, as the Rock had already pulled ‘Reke aside and had begun working with him one on one. Oh yeah, it was going to be different being a Kings fan from now on.

 

The drive home was quiet and satisfying. The old Delta 88 seemed to run a little smoother, as though it recognized and appreciated a job well done. Traffic was light, as the night was at about the halfway point between dusk and dawn. It seemed like only moments after starting the old girl that I was pulling the Oldsmobile into the garage. I entered the house very quietly, got undressed, brushed my teeth, and crawled into bed next to an already sleeping Mrs. section214. It had been an exhausting couple of days. I drifted off to sleep immediately.

 

_

 

I bolted up in bed, awakened by the sunlight streaming in through the window and the complete lack of alarm clock and/or elbow to the solar plexus. I picked up the hint of Kona coffee and Flowerbomb perfume in the air, and the aroma of both grew stronger as I headed downstairs and found my way to the kitchen. Clapton was playing softly from the family room stereo –

 

And I can change the world
I will be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby if I could change the world

 

Mrs. section214 was looking even more lovely than I remembered her as she prepared breakfast. Upon seeing me, she greeted me with a warm embrace and a long, loving kiss. "How is my magnificent hunk of man-meat this morning?" she cooed. I was a bit confused to say the least, as I could not pick up the hint of alcohol on her breath. It had taken the perfect combination of diamonds and Nyquil to get the woman to accept my marriage proposal years ago, so I was not prepared for this unsolicited show of affection. I decided to gather my thoughts by feeding the dogs, but when I went for their bowls, Mrs. section said, "Oh, don’t worry, sweetie. Daughter 214 has already fed the dogs." The streak had ended - 1,936 was not to be. "She’s outside washing your car right now, and then we can all have breakfast together." I mentioned that I needed to get ready for work, and Mrs. section giggled and responded, "You silly, we quit our jobs right after we won the lottery last week." She gave me another warm kiss, gleamed at me and said, "I swear, if your head wasn’t screwed on, it would fall right off of your shoulders."

 

Mrs. section turned back towards the stove (had she lost weight?), and then she turned around, looked at me and said, "Don’t forget, the Petrie’s and the Reynolds's are coming over for dinner tonight, and you promised to barbeque. But please, can we not spend the entire evening talking about how satisfying it was to knock off the Lakers and the Heat on the way to the NBA Championship? It was exciting the first year, but after three straight years, well, you know. Oh, and one more thing. It’s about time that we get Daughter 214 her own car. She doesn’t want anything fancy. In fact, Jerry is selling a used Passat, and it has really caught her eye. What do you think?"

 

And with that, I stepped out into the backyard, and let the morning sun overtake me. The birds were singing enthusiastically from the trees, and the Beagles cozied up to my side. The air had a cleanness and a crispness to it that I had not experienced in years. I was finally experiencing the life that a Kings fan deserves, and it felt incredible.

 

Mrs. section214 opened the back door and stuck out her head. "Breakfast is ready, my love," she purred. "Oh, and former President Dukakis and his wife Kitty just called. It looks like they’ll be joining us for dinner, too."

 

Mrs. section then closed the door, and I looked down at Bagels and Lox. They looked right back at me inquisitively, as though they were awaiting my response. I raised my left eyebrow, cocked my head, shrugged my shoulders, and emitted a happy sigh of rather generous proportions.

 

"Phock me."

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Coming next summer, the deconstruction of the Sacramento Kings all-time roster, as written by Ailene Voisin. An excerpt:

 - Peja Stojakovic lay stretched out on the loveseat in his fashionable Natomas townhouse, with a glass of single malt whisky balanced on the rippled wall of his stomach and his eyes gazing at everything yet nothing while turned towards the ceiling.

I wept soulfully in the background, filling the room with a tragic aria that thoroughly suited both his and my mood. For beside him, tossed down on the cocktail table like a Grant Napear insult, lay the letter he knew he should not have opened because it was not the first piece of poison he had received over the last few heart wrenching weeks.

The bearded line of his mouth gave a twitch of contempt at his own lack of willpower. If he’d utilized a fraction of the tough mental strength he was known for out there in the European world, he would have binned the letter unopened with the dismissive disdain it deserved.

He had discovered, however, that physical strength and mental strength and emotional strength were three separate disciplines, especially when applied to me, his hot-tempered, infuriatingly independent, sensationally sexy dark-haired vixen of a beat reporter. His beat reporter.

He took a slug of the whisky. “Indiana? What is there for us in Indiana? Why, Ailene? Why does it have to be Chris Webber or me?”

Damn Chris Webber, I thought, as I gently stroked the thick hair on Peja’s muscular and toned forearms. Damn the Maloof’s, too. And Geoff Petrie. And Marty MacNeal. Damn them all. Damn them all to the furthest reaches of hell. -

 

 

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